Fried Bucatini Nests on Red Pepper Cream with Bacon & Pumpkin
If you read that title and you still need convincing, there is probably very little hope for you in life. Go back to your meuslix munching and leave the artery clogging to me. Or maybe you need convincing because you don’t know what a bucatini nest might consist of and you cannot fathom why in Yoda’s name one might fry such a thing. In that case, keep reading and I will initiate you into a world so coveted, so special, so pasta-slurpingly scintillating you won’t ever want to turn back.
Bucatini are a type of extruded pasta- long like spaghetti, but hollow on the inside, rather like bendy pixie stix. They are my favorite above all extruded pastas, but let’s rewind. Do you know the difference between extruded versus rolled/sheeted pasta? It’s simple. Extruded pasta is made by forcing dough through a small die, typically resulting in a round shape that would be impossible to achieve using traditional roll and cut methods. Examples of extruded pasta include spaghetti, cappellini, macaroni, penne, and rigatoni. If you are ever in doubt, think of it like this: would I be able to make this pasta using a rolling pin and my own two hands? If the answer is no, it’s probably extruded. Rolled or sheeted pastas include tagliolini, tagliatelle, lasagna, fettucine, and all manner of ravioli and agnolotti.
Want to know a little secret about the difference between rolled pasta dough and extruded dough? Rolled pasta dough from most regions of Italy (there are a few exceptions) typically contains at least egg yolks and often egg whites too. In contrast, extruded pasta is generally made from flour and water. There is an important reason for this. You see, extruded pasta is made from pushing the dough through a small die, usually using a motor (but often just a hand crank) and therefore the dough that comes through the die must not be sticky or it will come out a gloppy mess. In contrast, it’s nice to have some elasticity to rolled pasta dough in order to be able to roll it thin. Eggs enable that.
Various regions of Italy tend to use farina tipo “00” (similar to all-purpose flour), semolina flour, or a combination of both in rolled pasta. In contrast, extruded pasta is almost always made from semolina, which again comes down to texture. Semolina is a more durable grain and so when extruded it holds whatever shape it’s meant to take much better than softer flour might.
When I moved back to the United States from Italy several years ago, bucatini was not easy to find. I had perfected my hand at rolling out sheets of dough, but no amount of coercion could coax my sheets into tubes. With great pleasure and after much ado, I finally bought a pasta extruder. It is an attachment to the Kitchenaid mixer and I am in love with the creations it makes. Extruding pasta is a quick and painless process; however it is important that the pasta has time to air dry completely before being boiled.
I extruded some bucatini to keep me happy on this rainy day, and I got to thinking- I miss egg in my pasta. I thought about serving noodles with a sous vide egg over them, but wanted to use some red pepper I’d juiced to make sauce and didn’t feel red pepper sauce complemented a sous vide egg. Instead, I got the idea to coat cooked bucatini in egg yolk and parmigianno then fry it in little nests in a hot skillet. I served the nests over the red pepper sauce and topped them with pumpkin and bacon. It was very clearly divine intervention because fried bucatini turns out to be one of life’s greatest tastes.
Fried Bucatini Nests on Red Pepper Cream with Bacon and Pumpkin Parisienne
Serves 4. Time: 45 minutes
- 1 lb bucatini
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 c parmigianno reggiano, grated
- 1 cup red pepper juice (made by juicing 3 red peppers)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 lb bacon, chopped medium
- 1 shallot, chopped fine
- 40 small scoops of pumpkin meat (or just cut chunks if you don’t care how pretty)
- Cook the bucatini in salted water until just al dente. Drain and reserve in colander.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the red pepper juice and heavy cream. Bring to simmer and reduce by 1/3. Add paprika, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Stir frequently. Maintain a very low simmer until service.
- In a large skillet, fry the bacon. Add the shallot after two minutes. Stir to incorporate the shallots and bacon, then add the pumpkin. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pumpkin is softened and the bacon is crisp.
- Meanwhile, place the egg yolks and parmigianno in a large bowl. Toss the bucatini into the mixture and coat with the egg. Place a mixture of butter and oil into a skillet and fry the bucatini until crisped on one side. Flip the bucatini nests and crisp the other side as well. I use a round 4” cutter to maintain the shape of the nests of bucatini, but you could simply pan fry them as well.
- At service, spoon a bed of red pepper sauce on a rimmed plate, top with a nest of bucatini, then sprinkle the bacon and pumpkin over the top.